Monday, May 16, 2022

The EastEnders

I finally made it to the east side of the city, which is no small feat, given my schedule and my west end location. But, on the Mother's Day weekend, I couldn't pass up the chance to check out what was happening at Ottawa's Central Station on Tremblay Road, hoping maybe to catch some of the new Siemens equipment. A guy can dream, right?

I had my oldest daughter in tow as we made our way to the station. It's been a while since I've been here, because the last time I was trackside, there was no chainlink fence protecting the tracks from the parking lots. I found this odd for years, given the priority railways place on security, but Via Rail has clearly stepped up security. What is great is that there are numerous gaps in the fence, which are perfect for squeezing a camera through. I'm sure they serve an official purpose, but I was happy to see them there just the same.

First things first, I tried to shoot a few shots between the wires that block much of the view from the Belfast Road overpass. There were a few corridor consists parked on the station tracks, with no diesel engines operating. It was a quiet Sunday morning at the station for sure. This shot below was the one I thought turned out the best.

You can see from the image above that there are two consists back-to-back, with one double-ended by P42s minus the Via "love the way" wraps. The other consist has a wrapped P42 as well as a F40PH-2 in the typical modern Via colours. 

My daughter even tried her hand at getting a shot of the train on the next track, which you can see between the pillars of the platform in the above photo. Her photo is below. It turned out better than my shot from the same vantage point. I love those old streamliners. Catch them while you can.

We decided to try and shoot through the fence trackside next, so we made our way from the Belfast overpass to the parking lot beside the tracks. A few shots turned out okay, after a little photo editing got rid of the immense morning shadows cast by the platform canopies. Below you see the same P42 bookended consist minus the wraps next to a Budd consist facing west on the next track.

I also decided to get a shot of one of the streamliners, because, well, just because.

I also tried to get a shot of a few trains overlapping. This one turned out okay. The door to the Via Business Class car was open. It was really tough to work around the shadows.

As my daughter has not been inside Ottawa's main station in quite some time, we went for a stroll along the concourse. It is a really beautiful station, by modern standards. I've always liked it. Even in the winter, it has a warm feel to it.

On a whim, I decided to see if there was anything to capture closer to the tracks. I didn't figure there would be anything worthy of sharing, but then I came across this convergence of three Via locomotives, framed by the station's steel girders.

In this image, you can see an old F40PH-2, two P42s, each with a different Via livery and even a piece of an old streamliner coach in the original Via colours. If you look closely, you can see the inverted Via logo reflection next to the old coach. And, unlike the shots I took outside, this shot wasn't totally dominated by shadows. I don't know if the Ottawa platform will ever yield shots as dramatic as you can get at Toronto's Union Station, but I think this might be as good as it gets (for me, at least).

It ended up being an unexpectedly fruitful window of railfanning. I even captured a quick shot of the O-Train passing under Tremblay Road. The cynic in me was about to muse over how surprising it was that the O-Train as operating normally, but I resisted the urge to say this to my daughter. This vantage point on Tremblay Road is a great spot to shoot.

So that was my quick trip to the train station for the first time in several years. I managed to get quite a bit in, considering there were no trains coming or going at the time. It was surprisingly enjoyable to share this experience with my daughter, who is nine years old (almost ten) and still willing to tag along with me on a Dad adventure. All in all, a great day that made me grateful for Ottawa's Central Station.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Last blast of winter (Part II)

This past March Break, I was lucky enough to be able to visit my family in Southwestern Ontario for a few days, which also meant some time spent trackside doing a little bit of railfanning. In my first post about this trip, I shared some photos of an eastbound CN mixed freight that was waiting in the siding for another train to pass. The weather conditions were less than ideal, as a snow squall off Lake Huron was pelting parts of Lambton County at the time I was finishing up my drive from Ottawa. But it did allow me to get a few winter railroading pictures, which is always a good thing, since I have not been active trackside this winter in Ottawa. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I caught a freight train waiting on a siding outside of Watford (at Kingscourt Road) for another train, or so I thought. When I made my way down the Confederation Line, I made sure to make a quick detour down Wyoming's main street, called Broadway Avenue, to see if I was right.

Sure enough, I could see lights coming from Sarnia, which meant there was another eastbound train that was scheduled to overtake the eastbound on the siding near Watford. I quickly made my way to Wyoming's Via Rail station, where I could get some shots of this fast moving train as it hustled east to Toronto. I tried to fit the Wanstead Farmers Co-op grain elevator in the shot, but I didn't get the entire communications tower, as I figured it would not add much to the image.

This shot was actually taken from behind the Via Rail station platform, as that platform was a little too close to the tracks and didn't offer a terribly flattering angle for the train. I decided to pull back. I did get the Via Rail marker in the shot, which was a bonus. In this vantage point, the eastbound is just about to cross Wyoming's main street, Broadway, at speed. The speed restrictions through this town are pretty liberal, as the trains whiz through the downtown at what appears to my eye to be somewhere near 80 km/h. It's a well maintained track with heavy continuous welded rail on a very flat, straight right of way. Perfect for fast freight, in other words.

Given the light dusting of snow and the steady gusts of winds, the train was kicking up quite a cloud, which you can see in the first image. This consist was a straight line of empty autoracks heading back toward Toronto.

This might be my best conventional shot of my first day in Southwestern Ontario. In this shot, a pair of CN SD70M-2s 8896 and 8845 are approaching the Wyoming Via Rail station platform with a full string of empty autoracks in tow. This was the train that necessitated the mixed freight in Watford to take the siding near Watford.

Given the snow cloud that this train was kicking up, the going away shot was a complete wash, but here it is anyway. At least you can see the Via Rail signage.

Given the difficulties the snow presented, I decided to see if I could come up with some compelling images that illustrate the speed of this train. This shot below was my favourite. I took it from a ground level point of view.

After that shot, I decided to see if I could catch a few fallen flag emblems or interesting autoracks. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, railfanning can't just be about catching the engines or the front end of the train. There has to be more to it than that. That's my outlook, anyway.

We'll start with Grand Trunk. It's a personal favourite of mine, given it was the railway across the river from Sarnia for many years prior to CN swallowing its identity whole.


 How about the just purchased KCS?

Or some Mexican railways?


This was another car of interest. I haven't seen many of these in person. Note the shared truck in between what looks like two cars, but is one unit. No railway logos on it either. It does carry the COER reporting mark, which belongs to the Illinois-based Crab Orchard and Egyptian Railroad, although this might be a case of a smaller carrier lending out its reporting marks. The railway itself connects to both UP and BNSF and is owned by Progressive Rail.

So those were the noteworthy items on this seemingly mundane empty autorack train. I was quite happy to have captured the COER cars, as it led me down a path of discovering this tiny railway in Illinois, which just so happens to have its reporting marks on a newer autorack in Ontario.

After that happy meeting with two trains in less than 10 minutes, I completed my journey and spent the day with my sister and her family. Later that day, as I was making my way to my brother's house to close out my day, I happened across more trains. All in all, it was a great day to capture the last few breaths of winter in Ontario.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Last blast of winter (Part I)

Over the March Break, I made my way to Southwestern Ontario to visit my family. I haven't seen any of them much since the beginning of the pandemic, so I made a solo trip down south to see them. I was looking forward to a few days without snow, since Ottawa was still pretty much covered when I left. Little did I know that a wide swath of lake effect snow squalls would hit right when I was driving southwest along Highway 401.

By the time I reached Watford, along Highway 402, I had had enough. I turned off the highway and made my way to the Confederation Line, a road that parallels the CN Strathroy Subdivision for much of its length through rural Lambton County. I was not all that far removed from Watford when I came across a mixed freight on a siding near Kingscourt Road, a narrow gravel concession. Since I was making good time on my drive and I had no family in tow, it was time for some quick railfanning.

Here is my first shot.

CN ET44AC 3024 is joined by a surprising partner. BNSF ES44C4 8200. It's always fun to catch something rare, especially a BNSF unit. I don't know if this unit's appearance was a result of run-through power from Chicago or a short-term lease. Both possibilities are likely as this train was headed eastbound toward Toronto, which means its departure was probably from Chicago. Just a guess.

The first time I saw BNSF units in person was way back in 2014. Here's the post from the last time I caught up with some of these orange units.

By the time I got to this crossing, it was clear to me that this train was waiting for the passing of a westbound train, or so I figured. As the snow was flying fiercely in the wind, getting some clear shots of this train was not as easy as you'd assume. Sure, it was stationary, but the combination of wind, trackside overgrowth and a dark, overcast sky meant I had to try getting some different angles. 

Here's more of an overall shot of the train. You can see from this shot that this is a true mixed freight. The first few cars in the consist say it all. TTX Boxcar, gondola, steel coil car, lumber car, covered hopper and boxcar. It reminded me of my younger days when I would often see CSX freights rumbling through my hometown with cars very rarely separated into blocks.

I did manage to cross the tracks, as there was no movement. Here's a shot from another angle. This gives you a better idea of the consist. I had to do a fair bit of colour correction to compensate for the gloomy day and poor visibility.

 

When I got the best shots I figured I could get, I decided to retreat to the warmth of my rental car and make my way to the next major crossing in Wyoming, to see if my theory about the approaching westbound train was true

But not before I tried some shots that were a little different. This one worked out well, as the crossing sign on Kingscourt Road added some much needed colour on an otherwise cold, grey blustery day.

 

When I was first approaching the train, I noticed two large trees at the side of the road near to where I was taking some long shots. Before I left, I tried using the old trees as a frame for the train, just to give some context to the scene.


I like the shot, even if it wasn't as sharp as I would have liked. The blur in the photos is pretty much the blowing snow, as I arrived at the scene right at the edge of a snow squall. 

The Strathroy Subdivision, like the Winchester Subdivision in Eastern Ontario, was once double tracked from Sarnia all the way to London, but with the installation of modern signalling, the line was reduced to single track a number of years ago, with a number of passing sidings kept in place to help maintain an efficient two-way route between Toronto and Chicago. This is what CP has done on the Winchester Sub in recent years.

Just east of CN's yard in Sarnia, there are several passing sidings in the rural parts of Lambton County, which are often used to keep this busy route flowing in both directions. I was quite fortunate to turn off the 402 when I did because I was able to catch this freight train with foreign power and also check out the situation in Wyoming, just west of this spot.

It was in Wyoming at its tiny Via Rail station when I caught the train that this consist on Kingscourt was awaiting. I'll save that until the next post, as it features some elements that are worthy of their own discussion.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Hide and Seek, Part II

Ah, to go back in time and right past wrongs. I often think of my time in Kitchener and kick myself for not using that time to capture the then-Goderich Exeter Railway Guelph Subdivision action. I lived in KW from 2007-2009. The only train photograph I came away with was a shot of the trestle over Kolb Park on the city's eastern boundary. You can check that photo out in this post. Since living in the city, I have had very few opportunities to return. I did go back in 2018 and managed to catch a few really cool things, which are even more meaningful now that GEXR is but a memory on the Guelph Sub. You can check that post out here.

This is all a very long-winded way of introducing the second part of my Hide and Seek posts. Hide and seek is really just a fancy way of putting a name to my maddening pursuit of railway pictures from the passenger seat of my car when my family is driving on Highway 401. This summer, my family made two trips to Southwestern Ontario and saw a few things on the way. The second trip was much more fruitful, but I want to focus on one area where I never expected to see anything, but I did.

When you are travelling westbound on the 401 through Kitchener, you don't have to wait long once you exit the 401 and drive onto Highway 8 before you might see some trains. You have to look to the right of your car as you head into Kitchener (west). If you strain your eyes and you are lucky, you will see the Canadian Pacific switching, mainly autoracks.


You will notice that this is not much of a photo. I had to blow it up, sharpen the blurred lines and crop out the extraneous highway dividers. But it feels so good to earn a bonus shot, especially for me, since I so rarely see freight trains and CP freight trains especially. You can even see a hint of some golden farm fields in the background.

I almost came away with a brilliant shot, but then this happened. The shot is pretty sharp and there would have been nothing blocking my view of these distant engines, but then the dump truck ruined my shot. Taking shots from a moving car is the definition of crap shoot. You never know what you are going to end up getting or just narrowly missing. Hence, hide and seek. Sometimes, you get something and sometimes, it all disappears in a flash.


But I was happy to get anything, to be honest. When I lived in Kitchener, CP was a busy railway in and around Cambridge, which is on Kitchener's southern border. CP switches for Toyota in Cambridge, along with a number of smaller light industries in the area. But, the automotive production plants are its big business here. The railway built Wolverton Yard specifically for its flourishing autorack business at a time when it was not really in the habit of such capital expenditures. The yard handles Kia and Hyundai distribution, as well. I do remember when I was covering stories for the Record newspaper in Cambridge, I would sometimes happen across CP's switching moves and my eyes would linger for a moment. There are some great spots in Cambridge to watch local switching. Alas, I never took any photographs.

I knew I had to be aware when we pulled into Kitchener on Highway 8 this time around, since I first noticed the CP switching moves last year when we travelled the same stretch of road. This year, I was ready and I was lucky enough to see a train once again. Great train karma for once!

The shot above is not bad, all things considered. You can see that the head unit, GP38-2 3118, is in need of new paint. You can barely see the Canadian script or what's left of the golden rodent. I wasn't able to get a clear shot of the second unit, which looked like it had newer paint. Considering how few CN geeps I have seen (excluding the GP20ECO rebuilds), I was happy to see this old warhorse.

This shot below is the one image that was clear enough to allow me to identify the one unit. As you can see, much of the train is obscured, but that's how this game is played.

It's not much, but when you see as little as I do, every small victory counts.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Hide and Seek, Part I

When you don't see all that many trains, you have to make the most of the chances you do get. I have mentioned this many times on this blog. Aside from the very sporadic CN freight trains in Ottawa's west end, I am 40 minutes away from the nearest main line. That's why I always make sure to bring a camera along when my family travels to Southwestern Ontario. There are a number of spots along our route where you can technically get a quick shot, if you are ready. Last summer, my family made two trips to Southwestern Ontario.

There wasn't much on the first trip down. Usually, if we are passing through Kingston around 9:30 a.m., we will catch an eastbound or westbound CN mixed freight. On our first trip, there was nothing. Between Kingston and the Greater Toronto Area, there are a few spots where you can see rails, but nothing was happening. 

On the east side of Toronto, we did see a CN freight parked on the mainline, waiting for clearance to proceed west. We were in the westbound lanes, so visibility was tight, to say the least. I was sitting in the passenger seat and attempted a few shots at the head end of the train as it waited. 

Of course, the 401 being the 401, my first shot was foiled by a car. I tried again.

This time, there were no cars in the way, but I did managed to snag a decent shot of the head end power, although it was partially obscured by the highway divider. As I've mentioned before, I earn many of these shots through quick timing and lots of editing. The full frame of this shot was not nearly as orderly as this cropped version. But, all in all, not a total waste.

I titled this post Hide and Seek for a reason. When attempting shots from the highway in a moving car, anything on the tracks can disappear behind a car, tree, safety barrier, building or bridge in an instant. It's not an easy game to play, especially when you're shooting across your car and trying not distract the driver. Thankfully, my wife knows this game and is ice cold behind the wheel.

A few weeks after this first trip, my family headed west again on a separate trip to visit the other side of our family. The second time around, my highway railway karma was much better. We did run across a freight train headed east on the CN Kingston Subdivision, but the trees obscuring the main line foiled any attempt at a shot of the head end. This time, my wife was in the passenger seat and trying her hand at railfanning. 

She did snag a tiny piece of the mid-train DPU. This shot is the essence of hide and seek.

I did pick out a few shots of the middle of the train, since there wasn't much else to focus on. I like the single TTX RailBox car in the middle of a string of tank cars. When I was younger, I loved watching the old freight trains that didn't seem to have any order to their consists. I know there is an order to this train, but it's always fun to see a car that sticks out in a line.

Here's one more shot. Boxcars and a lumber car. Nothing special, but some contrasting colours and schemes. It's all part of the game when you're on the highway.

Further along on our journey, we came across something really interesting as we left the 401 and merged onto the Highway 8 in Kitchener. Having lived in this city and thinking back to past experiences in the area, I knew there was a slight chance of catching something. I did in fact get something at long range, but I am saving those shots for the next post in the Hide and Seek series.

Our final stop was Stratford, which meant some interesting shots in the town's CN rail yard, which is shared with the Goderich Exeter Railway. There were a few posts worth of material from my time in Stratford that I just shared.

Skipping ahead to the return trip to Ottawa, I did manage to get a few shots in the east end of Toronto from the eastbound lanes, which are much closer to the GO/CN tracks. Here's one shot that you can easily get when you exit off the eastbound 407/412 ETR back onto the 401. It puts you right next to GO's east end maintenance facility and yard. I like that you can get a shot along the curve.


I wasn't able to get a shot of the GO rail yard that was usable for this post. The glare of the sun off the car's windows obscured my shots. You can't win them all.

All in all, I think my train karma was pretty good. I also managed to see a CP container train passing beneath Highway 416 near Kemptville, but there were no shots of that meet. 

As always with these posts, I am a bit hesitant to share these shots, as there are not typical of what you would find on a railway blog and they are certainly not up to the usual standards of many other blogs with far better photo quality. 

I guess there are two reasons why I share these shots. One, I think the challenge of rail photography from the passenger seat of a car on the 401 is incredibly difficult, which is itself worth exploring. Second, trips on the 401 are always an opportunity for bonus rail photos. For someone living in a railway desert, I can't pass up the chance.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Twilight on the Guelph Sub in Stratford

In my most recent post about Stratford, I shared some shots of Canadian National's Stratford Yard, which was once the main Goderich Exeter Railway yard, when the Guelph Sub was GEXR territory. That, of course, is no longer the case, as CN assumed control of the line once again when the GEXR lease expired. The end result, at least to my eye, is a quiet yard and not all that many CN freight trains on the Guelph Sub. I'm told that the line is now used as a relief line for when the busier Dundas Sub is at capacity.

In the time when I was in Stratford in August, I had multiple opportunities to visit the Stratford yard and the Via Rail station. Since there were no switching operations or locals being prepared on any mornings I was at the yard, all I could photograph were the GEXR units in the yard and the rolling stock. I did see one CN local rolling through town, crossing Romeo Street in the city's east end, but I was not able to get a shot, since I was too far away and was driving at the time. 

Nearing the end of my time in the city, I figured it would be worthwhile to get a shot of the westbound Via Rail corridor train en route to Sarnia. There is a nearby grain elevator and other landmarks to use to frame passenger trains, so I thought I would try to get a few shots of live rail action.

Here is the first shot of the westbound as it approached the platform.

I picked this shot among a few others because I managed to fit in most of the cars in the yard that had been dropped off by a westbound local freight earlier in the day (the one I could not photograph). You can see the old searchlight signals to the left of the Via Rail corridor train. You can also see the prominent grain elevator in the centre of the frame, not to mention the new signals on the edge of the passenger platform. The Via is led by a P42. 

The next shot I wanted to capture was the passenger train next to the GEXR units. I love railway family shots, as I call them, where you can capture different railways in the same shot. It's not quite as rewarding as capturing different railways in a meet, but it's close. This shot below was my favourite shot of the evening.


 Here's a shot with the westbound Via closer to the GEXR units, below. 

And how about a shot of the train at the platform. A timeless image in a small town. If not for the P42, you could date this photo anytime in the past few decades.

I should include a shot of the streamliners as well. I love that these old cars are still being used in corridor service. I suppose now is the time to get shots of them before they are replaced, perhaps by the Siemens equipment.

So that was my one and only meet with a live train in Stratford that I was able to photograph. As always, you have to make the best of what you're given. I like that one of the streamliners is still sporting the original Via Rail blue and yellow scheme. I will never get tired of that. The final coach is a modern take on the the blue and yellow. I've seen a few cars in this new scheme in the past few years. I don't like it as much as the straight blue and yellow, but it's not too bad. 

Shortly after the last platform shot, I was on my way back to my hotel, as the sunlight was fading fast and the air was getting crisp. All in all, it was a bit of a disappointment to not get any live freight movements captured, but I was happy with these shots as a consolation prize.

Monday, February 21, 2022

The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Railway Town

At the end of the summer in 2020, I visited family in Stratford and caught my first glimpse of the Stratford rail yard under CN control. It was underwhelming to say the least. In 2019, I was much luckier when I caught a GEXR train heading out of the yard and onto the Goderich Sub. In my two visits since, including last year's time in the city, the rail yard is really different.

I'm not going to say it's better or worse. To be honest, I noticed that the yard looked to be much more full this year than it was last year. I missed the CN local, which dropped off a long string of cars at one point over my stay, which appeared to be the only major freight activity on the Guelph Sub in my time there. I was disappointed, because most railfans in the area spoke of the healthy GEXR operations on the sub. That's not to say that CN has flushed all this progress down the toilet. The number of cars and activity in the yard suggested otherwise. There was a lot of work being done on the rails and the volume of cars was definitely high compared to 2020.

On my first morning at the station, I saw some CN maintenance of way workers welding a joint near the gain elevators. It was hard to get a decent shot, since they were quite fair away, but it was cool to catch some of the smoke coming off the welder in the early morning light. This type of work is always a good sign. All around the station, the railway properties that CN now controls seem to be much busier than they were when I visited here in past years. Several buildings beside the yard appear to have been refurbished and are hives of activity. Does this mean CN has plans for the Guelph Sub? Or it is catching up on deferred maintenance? I don't have an answer, but the signs of CN's increased presence were everywhere.

I also spotted this ballast car hidden behind a graphics and printing business on the edge of the yard. Again, these loaded cars, combined with the stacks of other railway maintenance materials next to the station had me wondering what CN's long-term plans are for this rail line. I had to take this photo on the shadow side of the ballast cars, so this was the best I could do to clean up the shot with a little retouching.

I mention all these observations because Stratford is a fascinating railway town. It was once a very busy division point in the days of steam when it serviced Grand Trunk's and eventually Canadian National's steam engines. The local Stratford museum has lots of information about the railway's influence in this city's development. At one point, it is estimated that 40 percent of the city's workforce was employed by the railway. That's a staggering number by any stretch. Even in the streets close to the rail yard, you can see the remnants of many industrial operations that owe their existence either directly or indirectly to the railway.

Of course, it would be unwise to suggest CN's takeover of the Guelph Sub after decades of GEXR operation is a sign of a railway resurgence. Many rail observers suggested that the Guelph Sub is now being used mainly as a relief route for the Dundas Sub, which allows CN to spread out its traffic during times when one line isn't enough. Via Rail continues to use the Guelph Sub, just as it has for decades. Via's Sarnia-Toronto service makes its way through this city in the morning and evening each day, as part of a milk run service that also serves other small towns including St. Marys. 

While I was trackside, I did snap a few shots of the GEXR units on a stub end track. They didn't move in the four days I was there. That, to me, was a sad site. I did see one GEXR work crew at the yard briefly one day, but otherwise, the shortline railway appeared to be quiet.

The GEXR unit was listed as a GP38-3, which means it has been refurbished and updated. It was pretty shiny. It was linked to a comparatively beat-up RLK (Rail Link) 4095. This unit has turned up online a number of times. It's an old GP40 that was once an Ottawa Valley Railway unit. It was originally CN 4004 in 1966. A bit of a relic. I don't know that I've seen many GP40s lately. I only have a handful of photos of these units, although they look quite similar to the ubiquitous GP38s.
 

 I noticed 4095 appeared to have some engine issues at one point. Looks like a small blow-out or fire. 

Since nothing else was happening at the yard, I took some time to frame some shots with the station in mind. Stratford's station has been beautifully preserved. You can see more shots of it in this previous post. 

I also managed to take some shots of the rolling stock I found interesting, including the Ontario Northland boxcars. 

Here's a better vantage point.

I did manage to catch some live railway action eventually, which was a relief as I was getting a bit bored of looking at this still life. You can only take so many roster shots.

I will definitely be back in Stratford to visit family in the years to come. That means I will likely get a better idea of what is happening in this area with CN and GEXR. For a town that has risen to great heights and seen its railway industry virtually disappear, the re-emergence of CN is a curiosity at best right now. I doubt very much that it will change much of anything. Personally, I am sad to see GEXR diminished to what it is now, but maybe all the activity I noticed over my time in Stratford means there might be better days ahead for the railway in this historic railway town.

Stranger things have happened.

Monday, January 31, 2022

The Tangled History and New Life of Car 23

I was surprised when I visited the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls last summer to see that the organization has a big new project in the works. An old Canadian Pacific Railway observation car, which is simply called Car 23, is slated for full restoration. The museum says it has many of the car's original parts, carpets and furniture in storage. The car is now located in a corner of the property, behind the museum's CN snowplow.

You can see from this photo that much works needs to be done, as the sides of the car are currently being protected by plywood sheeting, although I give the volunteers credit for painting the sheeting to match the car's maroon scheme.

I had no idea that the museum had this old railcar on its premises. I have visited this museum several times over the years and didn't even know it had a single piece of Canadian Pacific passenger equipment. Those who have been here know that the majority of the museum's passenger equipment is from the Canadian National, mostly from its pre-wet noodle black and white days. Here's a shot below of its passenger roster, as seen from the side of the museum's S3 Alco switcher. The car at the end of the consist is the former Canadian National dental car, which was once used to serve the needs of those in remote towns who did not have a dentist.

These days, you are not allowed to climb on the equipment or even touch it, which is understandable given the health precautions that are in place due to the pandemic. That meant that we were given a guided tour of the grounds by a tour guide. He was a great guide and very knowledgeable about the overall history of the equipment and the companies that supplied it. When he arrived at Car 23, as he called it, he mentioned that it is the museum's next big project. 

He even mentioned that the car was used for Sir John A. Macdonald's purposes. That piece of information made my ears perk up. I knew that Canada's first prime minister was a huge fan of the Canadian Pacific and made use of the railway, but I wondered if he did in fact use this car.

So I tried to find what I could online about Car 23.

First things first. This car was built five years after Sir John passed away, so we can effectively squash that bit of the myth. While Canada's first prime minister was a fierce supporter of the transcontinental railway and rode the rails many times, he never stepped foot in this car.

The car was built by Crossen Car Manufacturing Co.in 1896 as Quebec Central Megantic. The Quebec Central was a railway that was headquartered in Sherbrooke. The railway served the province's Eastern Townships and eventually connected to CP's transcontinental line at Lac Megantic. The railway was leased by CP in 1912 for 99 years, so it eventually fell into CP's operations, although it continued to be operated as a separate entity, with passenger service as far as Quebec City and Vermont. 

So, strictly speaking, this car didn't begin life as a Canadian Pacific car. It's important to note that the car's frame and undercarriage were both originally made of wood, which reflects what was common at the time. The car's underframe was rebuilt in 1912, the same year CP leased the Quebec Central. The car's name changed to Beauce in 1935.

It wasn't until 1939 that is acquired the Car 23 moniker. The rear observation porch makes you think that it might have been a car used on the rear of passenger trains, but the car was strictly speaking a business car or superintendent's car. It was retired in 1968 and assumed a second life as a museum piece under the ownership of the Canada Museum of Science & Technology. The car was leased to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association for its Harbourfront Attraction in Toronto until the museum was disbanded and the collection scattered.

The history of the car gets a little murky here. I'm not sure when the Toronto museum was closed and where the car resided in the ensuring years before it came to the Smiths Falls Museum. You can read a bit about the car, and CP's other business cars, on this Old Time Trains page. You will have to scroll down the page a bit to get to the Car 23 information.

As for its provenance, there is a fair amount of information about Crossen Car Manufacturing, which built many cars for the Canadian Pacific, Canadian Northern, Intercolonial Railway and other Canadian lines around the turn of the century and shortly afterward. You can read about that company by checking out this fascinating history page

So, in all this sleuthing, I wasn't able to find any extensive information on Car 23. The museum's plans for the car will likely involve years of restoration, which means it will likely not look any different than it does in the top photo for some time. I'm not sure how extensive the museum's volunteer base is, when it comes to restoration efforts. I know the Bytown Rail Society has its regular dirty hands club, which has been working on an old CN coach for years, so I would assume that Car 23's timeline would be something similar. 

Still, it's a fascinating piece of history. Hopefully, it will have its moment to shine once again.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Something New! A chance meet with a freight train in Carlsbad Springs

Happy New Year everyone. I know it's likely a little late to be wishing people this, but this being the first post of 2022, you'll have to indulge me. This is the time of year when I usually force myself to head out and get some winter photos to share. Now that my children are home learning virtually, I find myself with almost no time to even think about trackside adventures. And since my wife works weekends, it's not looking good for railway photography in the short term.

Luckily, a good friend of the blog, Keith, had a surprise in store for me in late December. Keith Boardman is a fellow railfan.As an added bonus, Keith has been this blog's unofficial east Ottawa correspondent since our early days. I will readily admit that I have not been able to chronicle anything of note on the Alexandria Subdivision beyond Belfast Road. That's mainly due to the fast that I live in west Ottawa and I am busy enough with work and family that catching any rare freight train in east Ottawa is a challenge. Also, for those not familiar with Ottawa's geography, Ottawa is one of the biggest cities in Canada, geographically speaking. It's actually the result of an amalgamation of 11 former municipalities that once formed the old Carleton County (later the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton). So it's a big city that requires a lot of driving, just to get to places like Carlsbad Springs.

Keith had a chance meet with a CN freight recently, but I'll let him explain it in his own words. Read on:

I was passing through Carlsbad Springs at 8:28 this morning (December 20) and the signals came on as I was about to cross Piperville Road. I know there's a westbound Via that goes through around 8:05 give or take, but didn't think it would be running that late. A Railterm truck was parked on the side near the crossing and a worker was out of it, so I assumed he was testing the crossing equipment. 

 


It seemed he wasn't, so I looked down the track towards the siding,and I could see a light, with ditch lights coming through the fog. Turned out it was the blue and white leased unit, with a second power unit in tow. I couldn't get a very good pic as the Railterm truck was immediately to the left of my view of the approaching consist. 

 

Thanks to Keith for this unexpected surprise.

You can see from his second photo that this consist included a beat up old CN geep that was still barely sporting the sergeant stripes. I was wondering why CN was still using a leased unit in the area. A few readers suggested that the railway is short on four axle units, which would be the only thing that could be used on the Renfrew Spur. Also, I can't imagine the railway would want to waste of more modern six-axle unit on its Ottawa operations, which don't seem to be much of a priority.